The Rise of Zoning Reform

As the housing affordability crisis spread from mainly coastal cities to the rest of the nation, cities and states are taking a serious look at outdated zoning codes that hamper efforts to build more housing.

1 minute read

November 29, 2023, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of suburb outside Dallas, Texas with large single-family houses with enclosed backyards and green lawns.

trongnguyen / Adobe Stock

Writing in Bloomberg CityLab, M. Nolan Gray and Salim Furth describe the wave of ‘YIMBYzoning reform sweeping the nation. From California to Rhode Island, states are taking a formerly local matter into their hands in an effort to alleviate the housing crisis. 

“According to a new report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, more than 200 housing bills were introduced in at least 23 states. The shift follows the national spread of a housing affordability crisis once contained to the urban coasts.” Even usually reticent states like Montana passed sweeping reforms permitting more housing types. “Meanwhile, Florida legislators passed the Live Local Act, broadly preempting local zoning barriers to housing. The bill allows mixed-income housing — built to the highest allowable density in the municipality — in all commercial and industrial zones, as long as some of the units are reserved for workforce housing.”

It may take years to see the effects of zoning reform, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. According to the authors, “The work pays off. California’s legislative focus on allowing ADUs has resulted in tens of thousands of newly permitted units, largely in areas off-limits to apartments.”

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